Little evidence of range size conservatism in freshwater plants across two continents


Aim Range size conservatism suggests that closely‐related species maintain geographic ranges of similar extent. However, consensus regarding this suggestion has not been reached. To shed more light on this phenomenon, we studied freshwater plant range size conservatism, range overlap and environmental niche conservatism using congeneric species comparison in two continents. In addition, we investigated whether a phylogenetic signal is found in the range sizes of aquatic plants. Location Europe and North America. Taxon Freshwater plants. Methods Across spatial resolutions (50 km2, 100 km2 and 200 km2), we applied Spearman correlations among 347 and 730 pairs of congeneric species in Europe and North America, respectively, and 63 pairs shared between them. In addition, Spearman correlations were used to evaluate how the degree of spatial overlap influences range sizes and which environmental variables explain variation in range sizes. Brownian evolutionary model was used to assess the phylogenetic signal in species range sizes. Results We found no evidence of range size conservatism across spatial resolutions for any species and species shared between the continents. In addition, range sizes of more closely related species did not overlap geographically more than those of distantly related ones and no support for environmental niche conservatism was evidenced. Main conclusions We found that aquatic plants show no range size conservatism in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that it is challenging to define different range sizes of freshwater plants through species traits. Furthermore, we are unable to predict unknown distributions of extant aquatic plant species based on known distributional attributes of closely related species. However, our findings suggest that the interpretations of previous investigations on the range sizes of aquatic plants remain valid due to lack of range size conservatism. These practical implications encourage studying range size conservatism across realms and regions, especially for understudied organismal groups.